Louise Woods papers
Scope and Contents
As a member of the CMS (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) governing board from 1995 to 2005, the Louise Woods Papers contain a large assortment of documentation concerning CMS and public education (many of the papers in this collection predate her election to the board). The range of issues with which she dealt was wide and varied; and included such things as violence in schools, declining standards and test scores, peer pressure, drug abuse, budgetary problems, school overcrowding, the increasing drop-out rate, racial profiling, poverty and especially racial issues like desegregation, integration and busing. Though this collection contains a wide array of records, the papers reveal that the greatest and most over-riding issues that the school board dealt with were those pertaining to race—either directly or indirectly. As a public school system, courts and legislatures required the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system to make every effort to racially integrate its students. Doing so has often required assigning students to schools other than those in their own neighborhoods, and busing them, in some cases, far from home. Busing was a very controversial issue and the school board responded by building “magnet schools” – new school buildings built in minority neighborhoods, with the latest in computers and technology – in an effort to attract white students to those schools without forcibly busing them. Approximately one cubic foot of Woods’ records concern court cases in which the parents of Cristina Capacchione filed suit against the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education when the school system declined her application to a magnet school. Capacchione had been twice denied admission, which her parents alleged was because of her race (Caucasian). Other cases related to this one include litigation introduced by Belk, Grant, and Swann; whose legal briefs are found in the Capacchione files. A topic related to this court case is the student-school assignment, and several files in this collection pertain to that issue. Another issue extensively documented in this collection is the issue of rapid population growth in Charlotte in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. School over-crowding was a constant problem, as building and renovation could hardly keep up with the ever-growing number of school children.
- Woods, Louise S. (Person)
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Collection is open for research.
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Louise Woods graduated from Duke University, and later earned a master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mrs. Woods came to Charlotte in 1967 and has been involved in community activities on Charlotte's eastside ever since. She has participated with the PTA, the League of Women Voters (serving on its education committee), her church and also worked for the Charlotte Baptist Children's Home. Before her election to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, Mrs. Woods worked as a social worker and parent educator. Mrs. Woods was elected to the Board of Education in 1995 (though she had run for election in earlier years) and was the representative from District Four. Mrs. Woods was among the first to be elected to represent a district, because in previous years members were always elected "at-large." Among the issues that she dealt with as a member of the CMBE were the Capacchione court case (on which she voted to go to court to resolve the issue of student assignment); a rapidly growing student population (the construction of new schools could barely keep up with the increasing number of students); increasing ethnic diversity (in 1995 when she first came to the Board, the district's student population had about two percent Hispanic children, but by the end of her tenure, it had grown to over fifteen percent); equitable school funding; academic extra-curricular after-school activities; and the availability of advanced placement courses in each school. Along with the increasing ethnic diversity of the region, the number of Asians moving into Charlotte and Mecklenburg County grew dramatically, bringing with them dozens of different languages. In addition, the percentage of students performing at grade level steadily increased. In addition to dealing with a host of educational issues, Mrs. Woods also served on several school board committees, including the Personnel Committee (which she chaired), the Board Equity Committee, the Policy Committee, the Safety Committee, and she was the Board Liaison to the Planning Committee. She also served on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina School Board Association. Mrs. Woods' completed her career on the CMBE in November of 2005.
Education in Mecklenburg County began in 1790 with the establishment of the Sugar Creek School House. The structure for this parochial school still exists over two hundred years later, on the grounds of the Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church at the intersection of North Tryon Street and Sugar Creek Road. Public education arrived in the area in 1882, when voters approved a tax for the support of a school system, and also voted for a board of school commissioners. The newly formed Board of School Commissioners appointed T. J. Mitchell as its first superintendent. The first public school, known as South School was located in the barracks of the Carolina Military Institute, at the intersection of East Morehead Street and South Boulevard. South School provided a curriculum for grades one through ten. The eleventh grade was added in 1908, and the twelfth grade in 1925. Another school for African-American children, known as Myers Street School, was also organized in 1882. By this time there were also several schools in Mecklenburg County—a school system that was separate from the Charlotte city schools. In 1913, Superintendent Dr. Harry Harding established the first junior high school in North Carolina, by converting Alexander Graham High School into a junior high—now known as Alexander Graham Middle School. Seven years later, in 1920, the Charlotte School System purchased its first school buses. Significant changes came to the Charlotte and Mecklenburg schools systems by the 1940s. This was a time when education experts began reconsidering the ways in which schools were being administered. By the mid-1940s, some of the schools in the county were being consolidated into the city school system, and by 1949 the Institute for Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recommended consolidation between cities and counties. At about the same time, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce conducted a study that made the same conclusion. This process was not completed in Mecklenburg County until eleven years later.
During the decade-long debate over city/county school consolidation, the US Supreme Court issued its ruling on one of the greatest and most significant court cases relating to public education. This was the Brown vs. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court decreed in 1954 that the educational doctrine of separate but equal is inherently unequal. This was a sea change in the administration of public schools vis-à-vis race, and had a major impact on the CMS system as well as schools systems throughout the country. In spite of the court order, school desegregation did not happen smoothly. The minority students who first made their way into predominantly white schools encountered considerable resistance. Other cases related to matters of race include the Swann vs. CMBE case, in which Vera and Darius Swann filed suit in 1965 in an effort to force the schools to admit James Swann to the school closest to his residence (a predominantly white school). The US District Court ruled in this case that the CMS system must use “all known ways of desegregation, including busing,” to integrate schools. This case (which the US Supreme Court upheld in 1971) was another landmark case in public education, and originated in Charlotte. In 1975, Judge McMillan, of the US District Court, removed the CMS system from court supervision on school desegregation, under the belief that CMS had satisfied the conditions of his court ruling.
Ultimately, the most effective way that the school system was able to deal with the issue of school desegregation and integration was the establishment of “magnet schools” a program that Superintendent John Murphy started in 1992. Magnet schools are newly built schools, equipped with the latest in computer technology, usually built in minority neighborhoods, with the intention of attracting white students from affluent neighborhoods into schools where most of the students are disadvantaged minorities. Another round of litigation emerged in 1997, when the CMS System declined the enrollment application of Cristina Capacchione at a magnet school, which her parents alleged was because of her race (Capacchione is white). The Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education asserted that Capacchione had been denied enrollment at her school of choice as a result of its established student assignment policies, which they claimed were made without regard to race. Other interested parties joined the Capacchiones, including Grant and Belk; and the courts revived the precedents that were established as a result of the Swann case. The case was argued in a district court in North Carolina, then it was appealed to a United States Court, then a US Court of Appeals, and finally to the US Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case, making the decision of the US Appeals Court final. The Appeals Court decided in November of 2001 that while it approved of certain aspects of the CMBE’s approach to assigning students to schools, it ultimately agreed with the Capacchione’s complaint and ruled in their favor. [Interview with Louise Woods, August 24, 2007.]
12 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Contains a wide assortment of papers, reports and records accumulated by Louise Woods, while serving as the representative from the fourth district on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, in Charlotte, North Carolina, from 1995-2005.
The collection is arranged into eight series, five of which (Board of Education, Court Cases, Media Materials, Schools and Subject Files) are further divided into subseries. The eight series are: Board of Education, Court Cases, Media Materials, People, Requests for Information, Schools, Superintendents and Subject Files.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Acquired from Louise Woods, in 2006.
Processed by Robert A. McInnes, November 2006.
- Busing for school integration -- North Carolina -- Charlotte Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
- School boards -- North Carolina -- Charlotte Subject Source: Local sources
- Woods, Louise S.
- Louise Woods papers
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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